From tailoring to appropriation support: Negotiating ...· VOLKMAR PIPEK FROM TAILORING TO APPROPRIATION

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    Faculty of Science,Department of Information

    Processing Science,University of Oulu

    OULU 2005



    Academic Dissertation to be presented with the assent ofthe Faculty of Science, University of Oulu, for publicdiscussion in Raahensali (Auditorium L10), Linnanmaa, on February 1st, 2005, at 12 noon.


  • Copyright 2005University of Oulu, 2005

    Supervised byProfessor Kari Kuutti

    Reviewed byAssociate Professor Yvonne DittrichAssociate Professor Anders Mrch

    ISBN 951-427629-9 (nid.)ISBN 951-42-7630-2 (PDF)

    ISSN 0355-3191


  • Pipek, Volkmar, From tailoring to appropriation support: Negotiating groupwareusage Faculty of Science, Department of Information Processing Science, University of Oulu, P.O.Box3000, FIN-90014 University of Oulu, Finland 2005Oulu, Finland

    AbstractThis thesis contributes to the field of collaborative information systems and Computer-SupportedCooperative Work (CSCW). It extends the notion of technological support for design activities "inuse" beyond providing the flexibility to tailor collaborative software, to provide means to support theappropriation process of these tools in their application fields.

    Two long-term studies on the evolution of usages of collaborative software in a German authorityand in a network of freelancers in the field of consulting form the foundation of this work. Based onthe experience there, it was possible to identify user activities that drive the appropriation process andto establish a perspective on the appropriation of a Groupware as a social process. Appropriation canbe described as a collaborative effort of end users, who perform "appropriation activities" to makesense of the software in their work context. Besides activities to configure the software to fit into thetechnological, organisational and individual work context of the users ('Tailoring'), there is a largerarea of technology-related communication, demonstration and negotiation activities aimed atestablishing a shared understanding of how a software artefact works and what it can contribute to theshared work context. The mutual shaping of the technology and organisational contexts resemble anongoing design process that end users perform largely without any involvement of professionaldevelopers.

    This perspective is the guiding line for developing means for "Appropriation Support", i.e., meansto support the appropriation activities that end users perform. To inform the design of appropriationsupport measures and functions, current approaches that capture the collaborative dimensions oftailoring, and the necessities of 'discourse ergonomics' for technology-related online communicationare explored. The trend to work with a tool 'infrastructure' instead of monolithic Groupware tools isa complicating yet important secondary consideration here, since it demonstrates the necessity tooffer support 'beyond one tool' to support a use-oriented perspective on appropriation.

    The resulting idea of 'Use Discourse Environments' as a main concept for appropriation supportwhich captures the activities of communication, demonstration and negotiation as well as the activityof tailoring (where possible) was implemented and evaluated in two prototypes that refer to theapplication fields of the initial studies. The idea of integrating online discourse, tool representationsand tailoring facilities served as a guideline for the use discourse both in an event notification serviceas well as in the 'Online Future Workshop' that addressed a shared inter-organisational softwaredevelopment infrastructure. Based on the evaluations, design recommendations for appropriationsupport are made, and the problematic nature of appropriation activities as 'infrastructural work'versus the 'productive work' that end users consider their main area of work is addressed. The thesisconcludes with a vision of collaborative software tools that do not only provide their original services,but also address end users as a 'virtual community of technology practice'.

    Keywords: CSCW, groupware, HCI, information systems, infrastructures, interventionistresearch, participatory design, software design, tailoring, technology appropriation

  • Preface

    It is a long way for me from the year 1994 when I enthusiastically specialised in Artificial Intelligence at the University of Kaiserslautern, fascinated by the use of the beauty and aesthetics of mathematics and logic to develop technologies that more or less emulate (and to a certain extent replace) human thinking and acting - to the year 2004, when I deliver this PhD thesis, which at its heart argues for delivering technology that allows users to negotiate the meaning and use modalities of technologies for every specific social context anew.

    It has been a process of understanding the different facets of the versatile matter that software is, the clay from which the Golems populating the technological dimensions of the Information Society are made. Like the Golem, a computer program or application can be made to do work for us, or to support us in our activities. And, like the Golem, no matter how pure the intentions and how pious the beliefs of the creators may have been, an application may deny the service it is expected to deliver, or even prove malicious if not used accordingly. The Golem had to be put to rest, because there was no way of improving its creation to obtain the benefits without the problems. But unlike with the Golem, the act of software creation has nothing divine nor mysterious, and the how and why of its failure in the eyes of its users can be explored, if we are willing to learn methods and attitudes from other scientific disciplines besides engineering and mathematics. Unlike clay, the matter that we are working with is so versatile that it can even support us not only in constructing new Golems (we already do that), but also in getting to know the nature of every individual Golem and in developing a shared understanding of what its role and task should be in our village. This functional meta-level which supports social, technology-related reflection still needs to be further explored

    My interest in the human side of computing resulted from a failure to solve the main task of my master thesis. For a process modelling and enactment framework with a very sophisticated modelling language I was supposed to write an algorithm that could decide which parts of a (partially executed) process could be reused after a process change. I was able to identify that even with all the sophistication of this process modelling language there was no way to automatically decide on the validity of partial results of processes. There might always be some dependencies that are not covered by

  • the model, and even within the model there could be hidden dependencies between the process and the object model. Involving users at some point could have been a way out of potential problems, but somehow I felt that this was not in the scope of the considerations on Artificial Intelligence. Nevertheless, I am very thankful to Michael M. Richter and Frank Maurer for not just teaching about, but rather letting me participate in computer science research even though I was only a student.

    It was the famous German yellow book1 that describing social issues in Computing - turned my master thesis experience into a professional interest; and for that recommendation I am indebted to Frank Leidermann. Considering the obvious lack of knowledge, education and experience regarding the research areas of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), I have to thank Armin B. Cremers and Volker Wulf for their trust in me in accepting me as a researcher and colleague with the project group on HCI and CSCW (ProSEC) at the University of Bonn in 1997. Together with my colleagues Sascha Alda, Pascal Costanza, Lea-Patrizia Engelskirchen, Helge Kahler, Gnther Kniesel, Birgit Lemken, Bernhard Nett, Markus Rittenbruch, Markus Rohde, Gunder-Lily Sievert, Bettina Trpel, and Markus Won they provided a research environment that was as enriching as challenging regarding the discourse on combining methodologies from computer and information sciences with insights from the social sciences. I thank Peter Mambrey and Oliver Mrker as cooperating researchers not only for contributing to this discourse, but also for sharing my ongoing interest in Electronic Democracy.

    Aside from the issues covered in this thesis, this research environment also allowed me to cultivate my interest in the fields of Participatory Design (PD), Knowledge Management and Community Systems, which also occasionally play a role in this thesis. I am very glad that we managed to maintain our cooperation by founding the International Institute for Socio-Informatics Bonn (IISI) in 2000, which has become one of the platforms that contributed to the completion of the research presented here.

    But it is Kari Kuutti and my colleagues at the Laboratory of Human-computer Interaction and Group Technology at the University of Oulu who deserve most of the credit for making this thesis possible. The friendly, inspiring and stimulating work environment that has been provided to me in the last year by my colleagues Leena Arhippainen, Seamus Hickey, Giulio Iacucci, Helena Karasti, Eeva Leinonen, Tonja Molin-Juustila, Pertti Repo, Anna-Liisa Syrjnen and Marika Thti has been a great help in the successful completion of this research.

    Research disciplines and commu